Summary: Finland proves once again that it rocks out harder than the rest of Scandinavia . . . most of the time.
The art of groove is an arcane one when it comes to metal, a genre known more for aggression and sheer brutality than for funky subtlety. It seems a rarity these days when one comes across a band that can actually groove. However, it�s this scarcity that makes these rare finds all the more rewarding, and Kiuas happens to be one. Don�t get me wrong, it�s not as though Kiuas is a funk band that happened to start tinkering around with an electric keyboard and a couple of distortion pedals. However, this band brings a dynamic and fresh attitude to the table that will more than likely have you bobbing your head than banging it. Alongside their groovy rhythms and licks the Kiuas package contains an explosive dynamic making the music seem quite epic in spite of the songs short to medium lengths. Once you acquire this fine album expect not only to throw the goat a hefty number of times, but be prepared to dance a sort of jig in the safe confines of your room (or any other such premises secured by four walls and free from the eyes of this oh so judgmental world).
The New Dark Age is Kiuas� fourth full length release and it seems pretty apparent that they have managed to change quite a lot while still staying true to their overall sound. 2005�s The Spirit of Ukko was a roaring success in this quintet�s native Finland, barely creeping onto the bottom end of the �Top 40� charts and combining power metal�s goofy hooks and melody with the epic and cultural facets of folk and progressive metal. The release was melodic to say the very least, and ambitious to boot. The band delivered a truly dynamic performance ranging from peaceful clean parts to enormous sections outfitted with considerable guitar and vocal layering. Only a year later the group returned to the studio to record Reformation. This release still had the melody and spunky attitude of the group�s previous releases but it focused more heavily on chugging rhythms, allowing vocalist Ilja to show the world his chops. The band also further developed its technical capabilities. Songs like �Race with the Falcons� left no doubt in the listener�s mind that guitarist Mikka could positively shred up on an axe. The band also adopted a similar sound of other local Finns Children of Bodom, combining chugging rhythms and unfairly catchy keyboard and guitar leads. The New Dark Age retains many of the band�s established fortes, and also manages to go in some interesting new directions that allow this album to stand alone rather than be dubbed yet another Kiuas album.
The Old � Like I said, Kiuas has, in a lot of ways, remained true to their original sound; cranking out chugging rhythms, insane riffage, and impressive technical facility. Mikka quickly reminds any listener that he can probably shred much better than his audience can; his fingers dance dexterously across the fret board making the listener�s jaw rather sore from hitting the floor so often. Mikka doesn�t always rely on mindless wankery to drive his solos though. He often plays a lot of interesting and melodic ideas with passion and attitude that seem to set him apart from other such shredders, although his relationship with his whammy bar is a bit too intimate for my taste. The drum and bass performances are solid as always but don�t seem really to stick out all that much. Ilja�s vocals are stronger than ever, and are delivered with power, charisma, and feeling. He is one metal frontman whose surly voice should not be overlooked.
The New� Much of the instrumentation has remained the same, sure, but Kiuas have headed in some new directions. One of the more notable novelties of the music is the keyboards. In past releases, the keys have mostly stayed in the background, occasionally wrenching the spotlight from Mikka�s hands to deliver nifty leads and quaint folk melodies. On this album the keyboards play a larger part than ever by soloing and trading fours with the guitar. They also prove to be the point of interest when the rest of the band is chugging along during a bridge. The band has also departed from its �Bodom-esque� sound (although it�s still present on the album) and has taken on a Symphony X flare (think The Odyssey and V: The New Mythology Suite). I might be the only one who hears this, but a lot of the riffs remind me a lot of Mike Romeo�s ideas. Aside from these instrumental changes, Kiuas make the token sell-out move: an all-acoustic track by the name of �After the Storm.� The funny thing is they pull it off rather nicely after all; Ilja�s and mysterious female guest singer�s deliveries are impeccable and make the song a worthwhile listen.
Fans of Kiuas� preceding releases will be just as satisfied with this new one. As for other fans of power and folk metal, this record is definitely worthy of your attention. Also, fun challenge! Try pronouncing this band�s name correctly, because I sure as hell don�t know how!